Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition

Campaign to Shut Down Berks

The Berks immigrant prison was one of three prisons for immigrant families in the U.S. until early 2021 when, after years of community advocacy, it was emptied. BCRC was the only publicly-owned prison for immigrant families in the country. Berks County owns and operates the building and grounds, and leases it to ICE who also rents office space from Berks County. The Berks immigrant prison remained empty for almost a year until, under the Biden administration, ICE resumed the imprisonment of immigrants in January 2022. This time, ICE is imprisoning immigrant women as young as 18 years old at the site.

The Shut Down Berks Coalition is a group of organizations and individuals fighting to close the Berks immigrant prison in Pennsylvania. Members of the coalition include organizers, lawyers, immigrant leaders, faith communities and allies.

You Can Take Action! Take a look at the Shut Down Berks Action Toolkit today.

Changing Who is Detained Does Not Stop the Violence

In 2022, ICE is currently detaining immigrant women at the Berks immigrant prison despite the prison’s documented history of abuses against women. Incarcerating immigrants – whether they be families, children, or individual adults – is abusive, unjust, and unnecessary.

The incarceration of immigrant mothers, daughters, and sisters is not the immigration policy President Biden promised when he campaigned for office. Even under Democratic control of the White House and Congress, immigrants have received none of the relief promised by Biden and Democrats. Instead, President Biden expanded ICE detention in Pennsylvania. This follows multiple administrations who have failed immigrants and us all with their maintenance and expansion of immigration detention. We know that in other detention centers for women, there has been pervasive sexual abuse, retaliation, medical neglect, and nutritional deprivation. For example, following the exposure of the atrocious abuses that happened against families  at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center (Hutto) – which was once a family detention center -, it was transitioned into a detention center for immigrant women. This did not stop the abuse by ICE. Women imprisoned at Hutto have been subjected to further inhumane treatment, isolation and separation from family and community.

In January 2016, the PA Department of Human Services revoked the license to operate the Berks County Family Residential Center, and the facility license has been under legal review since February 22, 2016.

“We came escaping violence, criminal groups, and seeking help and protection. What we have received from the United States is the deprivation of our freedom.”

Mother incarcerated at Berks with her child for over 425 days
President Biden Can Shut Down Berks

President Biden has clear authority to permanently close the Berks immigrant prison and release all women currently incarcerated at Berks by canceling the ICE contract with Berks County. The President does not need Congress for this action. President Biden’s stated priorities endorse an immigration system that “welcomes immigrants, keeps families together, and allows people across the country—both newly arrived immigrants and people who have lived here for generations—to more fully contribute to our country.” He campaigned on reducing immigrant detention. Instead, he has expanded ICE detention in PA, doubling beds at Berks and opening a 1900-bed private prison at Moshannon. His actions betray the promises he campaigned on, and perpetuate the cruelty employed by the Trump administration as a tool for deportation. Detention is unnecessary, immoral, and results in family separation and isolation.


Stay Informed!

Follow the Shut Down Berks Coalition on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and subscribe to the newsletter!

If you have a group of 10 or more people who want to get involved, fill our request form for an in-depth educational webinar on the campaign!

You can donate to support the Campaign to Shut Down Berks through Free Migration Project. Please type “Shut Down Berks” under “specific project or campaign”.


Read more on the harms caused by family detention and recommendations for ending family detention:

Philly Voice: Women Assulated During ICE Detention https://www.phillyvoice.com/berks-county-ice-immigrant-detention-sexual-assault-settlement-woman/


Shut Down Berks Campaign Press*

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*This is a selection, not a comprehensive list.